Grand Prix Sacramento 2014 - Card Advantage in Theros Limited

Posted in NEWS on January 18, 2014

The best Limited players in the world are constantly hunting for card advantage (The overarching strategy that involves trading cards for more cards.) when playing Sealed Deck. Many of the normal avenues used to accrue this economic lead are hard to come by in Theros Limited, making the card advantage war of the format particularly complex.




Why are things different in Theros Limited?


In most Limited formats, instant-speed removal is less expensive at the common and uncommon level than it is in Theros. Those spells have the potential to deal with two of the opponent's cards when we're presented with an opposing double-block, pump spell, or aura. The expensive/inefficient nature of instant-speed removal in Theros means that it's much less common that we're able to two-for-one (get two cards for one card) our opponent with timely trickery.

Additionally, the Bestow mechanic makes creature enhancement particularly resilient in Theros. We can't use our removal to two-for-one an opponent that goes for Bestow because the creature will simply enter play as a guy instead of an aura.

Ok, we get it. It's hard to gain card advantage in Theros Limited. So, how are we supposed to out-card our opponents?




The sorcery-speed nature of Theros Limited means that we need force card advantage out of our opponents. For example, we can use Monstrous creatures or Bestow to make a threat that forces our opponent to double or triple block. Similarly, we can abuse a tempo advantage gained with Griptide, Voyage's End, or Divine Verdict to assemble our Bestow or use Monstrosity to force the opponent into some disadvantageous blocks.


Some Bestow creatures offer card advantage in that the opponent will require a card to deal with both the creature that has been bestowed and the bestow creature itself. Some of the bestow creatures qualify as potential two-for-ones, but others don't have the body to be excessively relevant. A card like Hopeful Eidolon is a powerful racing tool that's very strong in the format, but a 1/1 lifelink isn't very impressive once they deal with the initial threat. On the other hand, a card like Heliod's Emissary will, in most situations, force an opponent to use separate cards to deal with both the initially bestowed creature and the left over elk. Previously Bestowed bodies that can't affect the board on their own can pick up other Bestow creatures for added value, meaning that cards like Hopeful Eidolon, Observant Alseid, and Leafcrown Dryad gain value and card potential when played in decks with a lot of the Bestow mechanic.




Cards like Keepsake Gorgon and Ordeal of Thassa offer real and tangible card advantage while also advancing one's tempo advantage, but there aren't many cards that offer this type of advantage without severely hindering one's tempo.


The best way to win a card war in Theros Limited is to have a single card that invalidates multiple cards of the opponent. For example, if we have three 2/2s in play and our opponent cast a 3/3, then we've effectively had three of our cards invalidated by a single spell from our opponent. Sure, we can use a removal/pump spell and be back at parity, but there's a point where we'll be unable to break through.

In general, card advantage is a lot more difficult to come by in Theros Limited than it has been in many previous Limited formats. Even Sealed Deck seems to be tempo oriented at least to some degree.

We'll catch up with some of the biggest names later in the day to hear some of the most interesting ways in which they've accrued card advantage in Theros Limited here at Grand Prix Sacramento!